Jews have a daily duty to recall the Exodus.
The theme of the Exodus is ever present in various daily prayers and blessings; it seems like everything we do is another זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם. It is so pervasive to so many commands and rituals, to the extent that we could almost miss the point entirely.
It is important to understand first principles because they are the foundational concepts that pervade the systems built upon them. So what do we mean when we say that we remember that God took the Jews out of Egypt?
Simply put, it’s not the history of the that we have to recall; it’s that every single last one of us is worthy of God’s unconditional love.
If we unpack the story, the Jews in Egypt weren’t saved because they were so good or so special, but quite the opposite.
The Zohar imagines the angels arguing whether or not God should save the Jews, and the argument against intervention was that “these are idol-worshippers, and so are these!”
When Moshe told the Jews to set aside and take one sheep per family, the Midrash says that “set aside” meant setting aside their idols, before taking the sheep for the mitzvah.
When even Moshe, already well on his way to Jewish leadership, saw Yisro’s daughters getting bullied and got involved in the fracas to protect them, the onlookers mistook him for just another Egyptian!
Moreover, the generation that left Egypt and stood at Sinai fought Moshe the rest of their lives, begging to go back to Egypt, and was ultimately doomed to wander and die in the wilderness.
The Zohar goes so far as to say that the Jews were on the 49th level of spiritual malaise; just one notch off rock bottom, the point of no return. Rav Kook notes that this adds a certain dimension to the imagery of God’s outstretched arm – it was a forceful intervention, an emergency rescue of a nation that had stumbled and was about fall off a cliff – בְּיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרֹעַ נְטוּיָה.
That is to say that on a fundamental level, the Jews didn’t deserve to be rescued at all.
And yet crucially, as R’ Chaim Kanievsky notes, God responded to their cries all the same – וַנִּצְעַק אֶל־ה’ אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵינוּ, וַיִּשְׁמַע ה’ אֶת־קֹלֵנוּ.
The Divrei Chaim notes that the very first Commandment is no command at all; God “introduces” himself as the God who took us out of Egypt – אָֽנֹכִ֖י֙ ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֧ר הוֹצֵאתִ֛יךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם מִבֵּ֣֥ית עֲבָדִֽ֑ים. We might not deserve redemption, yet God redeems us all the same. It’s not a command – it is something that simply just is, whoever and wherever we are.
R’ Tzadok haKohen writes that to remember Egypt is to remember God’s first declarative sentence; our God rescues people from Egypt, whoever they are.
The Ropshitzer quipped that תְּחִלָּה לְמִקְרָאֵי קדֶשׁ זֵכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם – the first step towards holiness is remembering that the same Exodus that rescued people from the abyss once before could be just a moment away.
As the Lubavitcher Rebbe put it, God’s redemption is not contingent on our worthiness.
That’s our daily duty. To remind yourself that the first principle of Judaism from which everything follows is that you are worthy.